Essential Scrum
Essential Scrum

Scrum Development Team: Chapter 11

This chapter describes the Scrum development team role. It begins with the five primary responsibilities of this role and concludes with ten characteristics that every development team should exhibit.

Scrum Development Team Overview

The third Scrum role is Scrum development team: a small, cross-functional group whose members have the skills required to deliver the business value requested by the product owner.

Role-Specific Teams

Many organizations are accustomed to intentionally splitting different job roles into specialized, role-specific teams. They might, for instance, have one team of designers, one of developers, and another of testers. And these companies often try to do Scrum while keeping this model of role-specific teams.

Parceling out work to different role-specific teams is likely a serious impediment to the successful use of Scrum. In Scrum, the development team must do all the work to produce one or more vertical slices of working product functionality each sprint. There isn't a design sprint, a development sprint, and a testing sprint. Instead, all of the design, development, integration, and testing of functionality is performed by one team during one sprint. Doing this successfully requires a cross-functional team.

Primary Responsibilities

The figure below shows all of the Scrum activities, annotated with the primary development team responsibilities: sprint execution, daily inspection and adaptation, product backlog grooming, sprint planning, and end-of-sprint inspection and adaptation of the product and process.

Scrum Development Team Responsibilities

Perform Sprint Execution

During sprint execution, development teams self-organize to perform the hands-on creative work of designing, building, integrating, and testing product backlog items into increments of potentially shippable functionality.

Inspect and Adapt Each Day

Each development team member is expected to participate in the daily scrum, during which the team members collectively inspect progress toward the sprint goal and adapt the plan for the current day's work.

Groom the Product Backlog

Part of each sprint must be spent preparing for the next. A large part of that work focuses on product backlog grooming, which includes creating and refining, estimating, and prioritizing product backlog items.

Plan the Sprint

At the beginning of each sprint, the development team participates in sprint planning. In collaboration with the product owner and with facilitation from the ScrumMaster, the development team helps to establish the goal for the next sprint and determines which high-priority subset of product backlog items to build to achieve that goal.

Inspect and Adapt the Product and Process

At the end of each sprint, the development team participates in two inspect-and-adapt activities: sprint review and sprint retrospective. The sprint review is focused on the product; the sprint retrospective on the process itself.

Characteristics / Skills

The following characteristics describe a Scrum development team:

  • Self-Organizing. Self-organization is a bottom-up, emergent property of the system—there is no external dominating force applying top-down, command and control management. Managers do have a role in Scrum, which is to create (and re-create) the environment for the team.
  • Cross-Functionally Diverse and Sufficient. Development team members should be cross-functionally diverse, with multiple perspectives, backgrounds, and experience levels. And, a sufficient quantity of each skill should exist among the team members.
  • T-Shaped Skills. Striving for T-shaped skills means developing team members who have deep skills in one functional area but who can also work outside their core specialty. 
  • Musketeer Attitude. Having an all-for-one-and-one-for-all attitude reinforces the point that the team members collectively own the responsibility of getting the job done. They succeed as a team or fail as a team.
  • High-Bandwidth Communications. Development team members need to communicate with one another, as well as the product owner and ScrumMaster, in a high-bandwidth manner: fast, efficient, and with minimal overhead.
  • Transparent Communication. Communication within the team should be transparent, meaning minimal surprises. I call it the principle of least astonishment.
  • Right-Sized. Scrum favors small teams. The general role is that five to nine team members is best. Scrum projects scale not by building larger teams, but by having multiple small Scrum teams.
  • Focused and Committed. Team members need to be focused and committed to the team's goal. Multi-tasking, especially working on more than one product at a time, is the enemy of focused and committed team members.
  • Working at a Sustainable Pace. Development teams try to work at a consistent pace from sprint to sprint.
  • Long-Lived. A team is a diverse, cross-functional collection of collaborating people who are aligned to a common vision and work together to achieve that vision. To achieve optimal results, Development teams should be long-lived.


This chapter focused on Scrum development teams, a long-lived, cross-functional group who together are responsible for turning product backlog items into potentially shippable product increments. The next chapter will focus on the various Scrum team structures you can use when scaling Scrum.